Back in 2012 I was invited to meet His Excellency Mr Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways. That saw me fly as his guest to Doha from London. Having left that job, I now feel able to write about the trip. The pictures are poor quality. If that is problem then it’s probably best to stop reading on.
I arrived at Terminal 4 nearly three hours before departure. Due to my fare class I had to visit the ticket desk. The staff were mildly irritated as I turned up in their break. That is until they saw who I was travelling to meet. Then they immediately offered an escort to the lounge and a buggy to meet me airside. I declined, but they insisted a buggy take me to the aircraft later on.
The T4 lounge was new, so I looked forward to my visit.
It was divided into a lounge area, a dining room and a deli.
The staff were most insistent I try a Chilli Martini. I fancied champagne but went along with it. The Martini was excellent.
Martini to start
To dine I opted for Filet Mignon, with chips. It was extremely tender and delicious. The drinks kept flowing.
To finish the lounge staff recommended their cheesecake. Again, it was a good tip.
After dinner I switched to champagne, which was continuously topped up. When it was time to leave, sure enough a buggy was waiting for me. Rather ridiculously it carried me all of 10 metres to the gate, directly opposite the lounge door.
Once on board the purser introduced herself and brought a glass of the champagne I’d been drinking. I think the lounge and aircraft liaised. It was slick.
It was a lengthy taxi from T4 to the Bath Rd runway. During that time a prayer played, but the safety video did not. Nor were the lights dimmed.
Service started with linen being laid out and a warm breadbasket. Shortly afterwards my starter arrived.
My main came quickly afterwards. It was rather forgettable and looked like Chinese Takeaway out of a cardboard container.
I finished with ice cream, which whilst nicely presented was small. Overall inflight catering was poor, in sharp contrast to the excellent lounge.
For some reason I accepted a coffee. That was a bad idea for an overnight flight.
Coffee & Chocolate
The cabin was reasonably busy. Seats were in a 2+2+2 configuration.
The seat converted into an angled bed. In other words, it flatted out but pointed down. Sadly I found the seat rather uncomfortable. However, after that many martinis and glasses of champagne I had no trouble sleeping
Despite being uncomfortable, I got five or six hours of sleep. Before long we were approaching Doha.
I was taken from the aircraft by a ground agent and taken to an arrivals lounge. The staff made me a much-appreciated cappuccino. I identified my luggage, which was then taken away from me again. It reappeared waiting in my hotel room.
It was 24 hours until my meeting with Mr Al Baker. That gave me the opportunity to do some sightseeing. Whilst a modern city, Doha values heritage.
A Mercedes picked me up and took me to the VIP Terminal. There I sat in a lounge chair whilst someone checked in my luggage. More on this later……
It was a short escalator ride to the lounge. My escort offered to arrange a meal, which I gladly accepted.
I don’t recall exactly what I chose, but it was tasty.
Whilst sat at the table I notice ‘my’ boarding pass was not mine. I raised this with the staff, who were clueless about what to do. Their response was to do nothing. So becoming rather worried, I insisted the manager on duty see me. The manager didn’t seem to know what to do either. At that point, worry turned to upset. I’m afraid I pulled out Mr Al Baker’s office details and told the manager fix things or in 20 minutes there'd be an irate phone call to the CEO’s staff. 45 minutes later, they brought my passport and correct boarding pass. Apparently, my luggage was on a flight to India. The whole situation was a mess. Sadly until I really caused a stir, Qatar’s staff were not interested in fixing it.
A minibus took me the A330 and I boarded via airstairs.
After take-off, we flew along the Iran/Iraq border, which was very beautiful.
Having eaten in the lounge I passed on food. Dining was advertised as being on-demand, but the crew denied this. After the stressful ground experience, I couldn’t be bothered to argue.
Overall, I was shown genuine hospitality by the Qatari people. They were really welcoming. I actually rather liked Al Baker, despite his controversial reputation. I found the Qatar Airways experience to be over-promised and under-delivered. However, some things like the London Lounge were genuinely impressive. How has Qatar evolved since 2012?